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International News: Ukraine grapples with problem of holding scheduled elections during Russia war

Posted: Sunday, November 26, 2023. 4:01 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: As the BBC reports, the war-torn nation of Ukraine is wondering whether it will have to go against its own laws to hold scheduled elections in the shadow of the Russian invasion.

The issue has been hotly debated but Ukraine is under martial law which prohibits the holding of any election, including a presidential one.

Incumbent Volodymyr Zelensky is willing and prepared to run for a second term but said earlier this month that it was “not the right time,” and many of his countrymen agree, amid fears the nation would be distracted from the war.

But elements in the United States and particularly hard right members of the Republican Party say they prefer elections to go ahead in order to secure further military aid, to which they would otherwise be opposed. Presidential candidate for the Republican nomination Vivek Ramaswamy claimed that Ukraine “is not a paragon of democracy” and is “threatening not to hold elections this year unless the U.S. forks over more money”. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, during his August visit to Kyiv, said that Ukraine must hold presidential elections in 2024.

Zelensky is aware of how critical U.S. support is to the war effort and suggested that even with security, legislation and funding issues, he “would like [to hold elections] within a year or whenever it’s required” as stated in a recent TV interview. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated that Zelensky was “weighing different pros and cons” of having elections in war time.

The population is both internally and externally displaced and Ukraine cannot guarantee security for citizens or military personnel to hold a vote. There is heavy damage to polling stations, mostly schools; the voter registry is outdated, there are restricted rights under martial law and a lack of funding.

A survey conducted by Kyiv’s International Institute of Sociology in November showed that more than 80 percent of respondents wanted to have elections only after the war has ended. MPs from both opposition and ruling parties repeatedly claim that it’s wrong to hold elections next year.

Amid backlash, Alina Zagoruyko, a member of parliament and the head of the parliamentary sub-committee on elections and referendums, argues that Volodymyr Zelensky will remain as a legitimate president even after his term expires next year. Article 108 of Ukraine’s constitution states that the incumbent head of state performs his or her duties until a newly elected president assumes office.

Even discussions of pursuing alternative means and opportunities to vote invites accusations of betrayal and treason, but it is not a discussion Ukraine can hope to put off for much longer.


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